Sharks 2004 draft preview

By Kevin Wey

Sharks Top 10 Prospects

1.Milan Michalek, LW
2.Steve Bernier, RW
3.Christian Ehrhoff, D
4.Marcel Goc, C
5.Josh Hennessy, C
6.Matt Carle, D
7.Dimitri Pätzold, G
8.Patrick Ehelechner, G
9.Mike Morris, RW
10.Dan Spang, D

Team Needs

Although the Sharks have a number of good young forwards, and their top two prospects are wingers, San Jose needs to replenish the system on the wings.

With a number of two-way prospects, highlighted by 2001 first round draft pick Marcel Goc and 2002 first round draft pick Mike Morris, San Jose could afford to invest in a skilled offensive forward in the first or second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Sharks might also be advised to take a power forward to supplement 2003 first round draft pick Steve Bernier and future fourth liner Ryane Clowe.

Team Strengths

San Jose’s most notable strength is its depth at defense. Christian Ehrhoff leads the group as San Jose’s future power play quarterback with collegiate rookie Matt Carle likely to provide solid two-way play in the future. Boston University defenseman Dan Spang continues to impress, while former collegiate defensemen Garrett Stafford, Doug Murray and Scott Ford also have legitimate chances to play in the NHL. Canadian World Junior Championship member Josh Gorges will join the professional fold in Cleveland this season and 2000 second round draft pick Tero Määttä is coming off of his best season in the Finnish Elite League.

The Sharks also boasts fair depth at center with Goc, and bluechip QMJHLer Josh Hennessy, as well as a number of depth options in Grant Stevenson, Tom Cavanagh, Aaron Gill and Craig Valette.

Another strength for San Jose is the versatility of their forward prospects, as many wingers can play both wings and many centers able to play one or both wings effectively.

Team Weaknesses

Even though most of San Jose’s prospect forwards have some versatility in what positions they can play, Michalek and Bernier are the Sharks only two bluechip winger prospects.

While San Jose can look to young veterans Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Jonathan Cheechoo, Alexander Korolyuk and Niko Dimitrakos to provide offense for some time, only Korolyuk and Dimitrakos have noteable playmaking abilities. This could make a winger such as Viktor Alexandrov appealing, a Kazakh prospect playing in Russia who possesses great skating and stick skills, as well as the typical San Jose Shark work ethic.

Although most of San Jose’s young forwards finish their checks, notably Cheechoo, none can be considered power forwards in the Jarome Iginla mold. While the Sharks do have Bernier in the system, San Jose needs another high end power forward in the system as insurance, perhaps in the form of Adam Pineault.

While San Jose has a fair crop of young goalies, the team could also use another good goaltender prospect, possibly a collegiate goalie, as San Jose will not need another goaltender in the pro system for three years with Nolan Schaefer, Dimitri Pätzold and Patrick Ehelechner in the system.

Draft Tendencies

In the past five drafts, 16 of San Jose’s 35 selections have been collegiate or college-bound players. They selected four college-bound players in the 2003 draft, although none drafted out of college. However, San Jose also looked to Europe for four prospects (Michalek, Ehelechner, Kai Hospelt and Alexander Hult) and to major juniors for three (Bernier, Hennessy, and Jonathan Tremblay), with Ehelechner moving to juniors from Germany in 2003-04.

Many of the college/college-bounds selections also came from New England, notably the Boston area, or from colleges from the northeast. From 1999 through 2002 all of San Jose’s collegiate picks, save Tim Conboy, were either from New England or bound for a New England school. Carle and center Joe Pavelski serve as exceptions to this New England tendency from the 2003 draft, but ninth round picks Carter Lee and Brian O’Hanley follow this trend.

Location aside, San Jose focuses on players with speed, two-way awareness, strong work ethics and character. Any European prospect with a questionable work ethic regardless of his upside need not apply in San Jose.

Player Most Likely to be Taken in the first round (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Viktor Alexandrov, RW